In Eastern Tennessee, perched in the foothills of Appalachia, Knoxville is surrounded by beautiful nature, while its central streets showcase a long and storied history. Since the days of James White, Knoxville has grown into a modern and diverse city. Travelers can experience mouthwatering Southern cuisine as easily as they can venture into the surrounding mountains or explore the many local museums.
Knoxville is for all types of travelers, from couples to families and foodies. Find a wide range of things to do in Knoxville that are easy on the wallet and great for kids. When the sun falls, couples can enjoy a thriving downtown scene, including the amazing Tennessee Theatre.
Best Places to Visit in Knoxville, TN
By boarding the Three Rivers Rambler, which is propelled by a turn-of-the-century steam engine, or the Star of Knoxville, a classic paddle wheeler, you may write your own chapter in history. Bring our list of activities to do in Knoxville, Tennessee, if you enjoy being active.
1. Appreciate Market Square
The 13-acre Market Square serves as Knoxville’s cultural and historical hub. As it always has been, this is the spot to go to hang out, observe people, and get a bite to eat.
Since 1864, Market Square has served as a meeting place and a hub for commerce. A must-attend event is the Saturday Farmers Market, which features up to 130 sellers in open-air stalls.
2. Visit the Ijams Nature Center to commune with nature
Due to its 35 premium marble quarries, Knoxville was dubbed “Marble City” before the turn of the century. Pink marble from Knoxville was used in the construction of monuments and structures in Washington, D.C. Ijams Nature Center was founded in 1968 with the goal of reclaiming quarry sites alongside the Tennessee River.
Ijams is home to 315 acres of parkland designed to encourage recreation and natural history understanding. It’s one of the most well-liked locations for residents and guests to stroll, bike, picnic, paddle, and swim. Here, special occasions like weddings are held.
3. Navitat Canopy Adventures’ Swing High
At the Ijams Nature Center, there is a zipline park called Navitat Knoxville. As a family or group of friends, enjoy the interconnecting ziplines, canopy walkways, and swing bridges. To complete the balance challenges, which include climbing nets, crawling through tunnels, and walking across unstable bridges and rolling barrels, allow 2.5 hours.
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You and your group move to the Tree House after completing a thorough orientation and getting fitted for your harness. The starting point for six excursions is here. You return to the Tree House to begin a new adventure after finishing each one.
4. Attend a performance at Tennessee Theater
The Official State Theatre of Tennessee is the Tennessee Theatre, one of the most opulent music halls in the nation. It was regarded as the best theater in the American South when it first opened as a movie palace in 1928. It was revived as a concert and performance hall in 2005 after a multimillion-dollar refurbishment. On the National Register of Historic Places, it is recognized.
The Tennessee Theatre, a regal presence on Gay Street, is a beautiful location to witness a performance. Before coming to Knoxville, check the theater’s website and purchase tickets.
5. View the Animals at the Knoxville Zoo
With 800 species present, the Knoxville Zoo is a trailblazer in conservation. Here, African elephants gave birth to their first and second offspring in the United States. Additionally, it saw the greatest number of red panda births nationwide as well as other successes in raising endangered species and reptiles.
Zoo Knoxville offers education and wildlife viewing as a pleasurable experience for all visitors in addition to saving animals from extinction. The East Zoo specializes in birdlife, marine life, and Asian habitats and animals. African monkeys, huge mammals like giraffes, rhinos, and elephants, as well as apex predators like lions, can be found at West Zoo.
6. Visit the Knoxville Museum of Art to admire creativity
The Knoxville Museum of Art is conveniently situated and has a collection of artwork that focuses on East Tennessee’s inventiveness. A vast archive of local artists’ work is featured in the ongoing exhibit Higher Ground, which pays tribute to them.
One of the ongoing exhibits is titled “Cycle of Life: Within the Power of Dreams and the Wonder of Infinity.” The largest “figurative glass and steel assemblage” ever made was by Knoxville artist Richard Jolley. The museum is open to everyone.
7. Attend a sporting event at Neyland Stadium
For 100 years, Neyland Stadium has been a mainstay of Knoxville’s riverfront. The stadium, which serves as the home field for the Tennessee Volunteers football team, has long-held sporting and celebratory events. Neyland Stadium is the fifth largest stadium in the world and has seating for more than 100,000 spectators. Conventions and exhibition games of the National Football League are held there.
Check the schedule of events while in Knoxville to attend a game. Whenever the home team celebrates a touchdown, everyone gets together to sing “Rocky Top.” The location of headliner concerts is Neyland Stadium.
8. Take a tour of Sunsphere Tower
An outstanding representation of Knoxville’s distinguished past is the Sunsphere Tower. It served as the centerpiece of the 1982 World’s Fair, the last one to be held in the country. The 75-foot gold geodesic dome is situated downtown atop a hexagonal structure. The building stands 266 feet tall.
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The Sunsphere, which has been reflecting solar energy for over 40 years, will add light to any pictures you may snap of Knoxville’s skyline. The Observation Deck elevator is currently locked.
9. Visiting the Tennessee Historical Society and Museum
You can discover more about the beginnings of life and culture in the eastern part of the state by paying a visit to the East Tennessee Historical Society and Museum. The museum features interactive exhibitions that bring history to life and houses a permanent collection of more than 13,000 objects. One of these is “History HQ” for kids. They pick up skills like basket weaving, knitting, and stop-motion animation here.
10. Attend a Game or a University of Tennessee Tour
The University of Tennessee’s main campus is accessible by foot from the city center. Founded more than 200 years ago on the Tennessee River’s banks, UT’s physical area consists of 910 acres and 294 structures. The number of students is over 30,000.
Support the UT Volunteers and participate in the excitement of varsity athletics, especially when football games are played at Neyland Stadium. Take a selfie next to Smoky, the UT mascot, in front of the stadium or at the Torchbearer statue in Circle Park while exploring the campus.
After Nashville and Memphis, Knoxville is the third-largest city in Tennessee, although it still has a small-town atmosphere.
The most well-liked activities in Knoxville include historic sites, museums, theaters, parks, and shopping, and since many of these attractions are close to one another, the city is also walkable.